This article concludes that businesses using commercial television to promote their products will achieve the greatest advertising success by sponsoring only highly- rated programs—preferably, programs resembling the highly-rated non-commercial programs on public channels. Supporting this claim is a recent study indicating that many programs judged by viewers to be high in quality appeared on noncommercial networks, and that the most popular shows on commercial television are typically sponsored by the best-selling products. This argument is weak because it depends on three questionable assumptions.
The first of these assumptions is that non-commercial public television programs judged by viewers to be high in quality are also popular. However, the study cited by the author concerns viewer attitudes about the "high quality" of programs on noncommercial public television, not about their popularity. A program might rate highly as to quality but not in terms of popularity. Thus, the author unfairly assumes that highly-rated public television programs are necessarily widely viewed, or popular.
The argument also assumes that programs resembling popular non-commercial programs will also be popular on commercial television. However, the audiences for the two types of programs differ significantly in their tastes. For example, a symphony series may be popular on public television but not as a prime-time network show, because public-television viewers tend to be more interested than commercial-television viewers in the arts and higher culture. Thus, a popular program in one venue may be decidedly unpopular in the other.
A third assumption is that products become best-sellers as a result of their being advertised on popular programs. While this may be true in some cases, it is equally possible that only companies with products that are already best-sellers can afford the higher ad rates that popular shows demand. Accordingly, a lesser-known...
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